But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

—Isaiah 64:6

Everybody receives in some degree God’s grace: the lowest woman in the world; the most sinful, bloody man in the world; Judas; Hitler. If it hadn’t been that God was gracious, they would have been cut off and slain, along with you and me and all the rest. I wonder if there’s much difference in us sinners after all.

When a woman sweeps up a house, some of the dirt is black, some is gray, some is light-colored, but it is all dirt, and it all goes before the broom. And when God looks at humanity He sees some that are morally light-colored, some that are morally dark, some that are morally speckled, but it is all dirt, and it all goes before the moral broom.

So the grace of God is operated toward everybody. But the saving grace of God is different. When the grace of God becomes operative through faith in Jesus Christ then there is the new birth. But the grace of God nevertheless holds back any judgment that would come until God in His kindness has given everyone a chance to repent. AOG102-103

Lord, each one of Your children has sinned and deserves to be swept away. Thank You for Your saving grace that reaches out to all of us in our sinfulness. Amen. [1]

64:6, 7 They confess to personal uncleanness, and admit that their best deeds (righteousnesses) are like filthy rags. No wonder that they are fading leaves, driven away by the wind of their own iniquities. There is spiritual deadness in Israel. Intercessors are nowhere to be found, because Jehovah has abandoned them to the consequences of their sins.[2]

64:6 unclean … filthy garment. As in 53:6, the prophet included himself among those confessing their utter unworthiness to be in God’s presence. Isaiah employed the imagery of menstrual cloths used during a woman’s period to picture uncleanness (cf. Lv 15:19–24). This is true of the best behavior of unbelievers (cf. Php 3:5–8).[3]

64:6 all have become like the unclean Someone who was unclean was forbidden from entering the temple for sacrifice or worship. See note on 35:8; note on 52:1.

deeds of justice like a menstrual cloth An acknowledgement of their false piety (see 58:2 and note).[4]

64:6 unclean. Unfit to be in God’s presence (Lev. 13:45, 46; Hag. 2:13, 14).

polluted garment. Under the old covenant, garments stained by menstruation are defiled, as is anything else that comes into contact with a flow of life-fluids from the body (30:22 note; Lev. 15:19; Ezek. 36:17; cf. Phil. 4:7, 8). Since God is the Lord of life, nothing associated with a diminishment of life can enter His presence. Our problem is not merely our sinful acts but the fact that even our very best works are defiled before Him.

We all fade like a leaf. We are transitory mortals, while the Lord endures forever (40:7, 8). Like the wicked in Ps. 1, we are easily blown away in the wind.[5]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 988). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 64:6). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 64:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1244). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.


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